We drove the Audi Q3 Sportback 45 TFSI Quattro: enjoy elegance and thoroughbred performance…

We all know the Audi adage “Vorsprung durch Technik” and this is indeed what the brand masterfully embodies through its products.

The elegant Q3 we tested makes no exception to this rule. It brings you the ultimate in state of the art classic, non electrified technology, and with its 230 HP makes driving this elegant 4WD a true feast… just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Living in style.

Audi cars breathe style. Their designers carefully honed the already well proportioned Q3 to a distinct, elegant, coupé-like SUV/Crossover, with the good dimensions further enhanced by bigger wheels in the S line Quattro version we tested. The front end is angular and decidedly masculine, as Audi puts it, underlined by the trapezoidal air inlets, which are connected to each other by a narrow blade in the bumper. The sloping roof-line makes the car appear considerably longer than its sister model, the Q3, although the difference is just 16 millimeters. The Audi designers positioned the roof frame lower by 29 mm, and indeed, this Q3 looks sleek. In the S line exterior, the bumpers, the wheel arch trims, and sill trims are distinctively colored.

Here just one word about the Matrix LED headlights: Nine LEDs generate the low beam light and ten more LEDs create the high beam light.  

When the camera detects other road users, they are masked out of the light beam in a targeted fashion.

The matrix LED headlights also feature front and rear dynamic turn signals.

The cabin and dashboard also breathe the cherished Audi design language and philosophy. Clean, rakish yet fluid contours dominate the dashboard layout, and we find of course the virtual instrumentation, which is clear to read and stylish.

The instrument panel is designed in two zones, which makes it appear particularly wide. The upper zone integrates the air vents while the lower zone constitutes the operating level.

We tell you more later about the lavish array of infotainment functions, just suffice to say here that the central element here is the centre console with optional MMI touch display in our test car, which is together with the climate control unit tilted toward the driver by ten degrees.

In “our” S line, the seat backrests feature the embossed S logo, and the sport leather steering wheel bears a corresponding emblem. There is ample room for four if not five adults, the rear seats can be moved 130 mm (5.1 in) longitudinally as standard; their backrests are divided into three sections, and their inclination can be adjusted in seven stages. The volume of the luggage compartment ranges from 530 l (18.7 cu ft) to 1,400 l (49.4 cu ft). The loading floor can be adjusted to two levels, and the rear shelf is located beneath it. Our test car had the electric tailgate that can also be opened and closed with a foot motion.  

Driving is believing.

Pushing the starting knob revealed the feline smoothness of the 2 litre TFSI petrol engine. State of the art responsiveness is what you can expect from this unit: it delivers 169 kW (230 metric hp) at 5,000–6,200 rpm and 350 Nm (258.1 lb-ft) of torque between 1,500 to 4,300 rpm. Coupled to the 7-speed S-Tronic, you can expect some serious performance. And indeed, this Q3 truly delivers.

In supersmooth staccato the engine redlines and catapults the Q3 in 6,5 seconds to 100 km/h, hurtling further to a top speed of 233 km/h. Close to supercar performance, let this be said. And the beauty here is again, as befits a well engineered thoroughbred, that all this is achieved completely effortlessly, with chassis and drivetrain being always well mannered, keeping the driver in complete control. The engine is never obtrusive, and the S-Tronic always changes judiciously and at lightning speed. Of course one has the choice over different driving modes, and the consumption changes distinctly according to the selected mode and driving style. The manufacturer quotes between 7.7–7.3 l/100 km as combined fuel consumption, with CO2 emissions being 174–166 g/km.

It takes a very gentle foot indeed to stay between 8 and 9 litres/100 km in urban traffic, driving at legal limits on the open road will bring your consumption down to the 7 litres level. But of course, power costs fuel. We witness now an intensive “hybridisation” of the Audi range, and soon we will be able to drive the first Audi hybrids on the road. Suffice to say here for those enthusiasts keen on economy that the 1.5 TFSi in the Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI uses the cylinder on demand technology, which switches off two cylinders at low and medium loads.

Later this engine will follow with S tronic and 48 volt mild hybrid system. During deceleration, it recovers energy; during acceleration from low speeds, it supports the engine. In real-life driving, it can save up to 0.4 l of fuel per 100 km.

At the moment of writing, we are driving the new Passat Hybrid GTE, and to tell you right away, it is an impressive plug-in hybrid indeed, with VW manifestly knowing very well what engineering and building a state of the art hybrid is all about.

Superb agility and balance

This SUV/Crossover coupé has also all what it takes to shine on curvy roads. First of all, it’s a Quattro, so it will certainly stand its own on wet and snowy roads, but it is also a very fine handling sporty companion on dry tarmac, being able to handle effortlessly all the power you unleash with your right foot.

At the limits of performance, the quattro drive works closely together with the wheel-selective torque control, It makes handling even more dynamic and stable by gently applying the brake to the inside wheels with the quattro drive and the inside front wheel with the front drive. The central element of the quattro drive system is a hydraulic multi-plate clutch on the rear axle. Its electronic management combines outstanding stability and strong traction with driving pleasure, the manufacturer tells us, and right they are.

The Audi digital world…

Our top of the range Q3 took us convincingly into the wonders of digital infotainment, and it is intuitive and easy to use. The flat menu structure is complemented by a control unit that uses natural language and can also understand free-form communication. Entering a navigation destination and the MMI search are based on free-form text input.

The system recognizes the driver’s most frequent destinations based on previous journeys, allowing it to generate suitable suggestions. When doing so, it takes into consideration statistical empirical values regarding the traffic load and time of day. Wow!  

…and being connected

The future doesn’t stop here of course. Together with MMI navigation plus, the online services of Audi connect are made available on board at LTE Advanced speed via a permanently installed SIM card.

This includes, for example, online traffic information and the online points of interest service, which complements route guidance with photos, opening hours and user evaluations.

Thanks to the inter-connectivity of the Audi fleet, the Q3 Sportback receives and provides information about parking spaces on the roadside, hazard areas and speed limits, which are detected via the on-board camera and vehicle sensors.

Navigation with Google Earth and the hybrid radio, which automatically switches between FM, DAB and online streaming depending on the reception conditions, also form part of the Audi connect navigation & infotainment plus package. The voice control system uses the detailed knowledge in the cloud to answer the driver’s questions and commands. The future has arrived with this package!

Of course, this Audi also takes care of your smart phone. The free myAudi app and the Audi smartphone interface ensure interconnectivity between the car and smartphone. This integrates Android and iOS cell phones into the on-board infotainment system.

The content of the smartphone is shown on the MMI display via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and no cables are required if the top infotainment system is used with an iPhone. The Audi phone box and the Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System with virtual 3D sound complete this comprehensive offer.

Of course, there is the whole array of electronic driving aids, which makes both urban and long distance touring a true pleasure…

Conclusion

A stunning compact yet roomy SUV, offering in this powerful version tons of driving pleasure, yet remaining utterly sophisticated and docile.

With its superb styling, workmanship and finish, this Audi is a car to love and behold, and care for during its long, reliable life, if you have the pleasure and privilege to own it for some time. It constitutes undoubtedly the pinnacle what classic medium size petrol engined drivetrains can offer, and as such constitutes a benchmark indeed.

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

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